EXCLUSIVE Strictly’s Janette and Aljaž: ‘This baby has been a long time coming’

The dancers talk podcasts and parenting with Charlotte Roberts

by Charlotte Roberts |
Published on

For all the sequin outfits and Glitterball wins, Strictly legends Janette Manrara and Aljaž Škorjanec are about to embark on their biggest adventure yet. Having risen to fame as household names on the dancing show, the pair are now getting ready to welcome their first child this summer – and, as Janette laughs, "I've been busy nesting." It's been a busy few years for the former Strictly pros, with 39-year-old Janette stepping back from the show in 2021 to take up a presenting role on spin-off It Takes Two, before Aljaž, 33, followed suit, leaving the show the next year.

Now, with their summer due date just weeks away and season two of their Twist And Shout podcast imminent, it's a wonder the dancing have found the time to sit down with heat at all. But as soon as we see them, one thing is clear – the pair are more excited than ever to add proud parents to their list of achievements. And that excitement is contagious...

Are you looking forward to parenthood?

Janette: Aljaž has been looking forward to it since the day we met! We're very excited. The journy was a little bit tricky because we tried for two years and were on the verge of IVF. Then we got pregnant naturally in the middle of the whole process, which is amazing. This little baby has ben a long time coming.

Aljaž: I think that makes it even more special. We were counting down the days for that test to turn positive.

anette Manrara and Aljaž Škorjanec (Photo by Dave J Hogan/Getty Images)

Are you all ready?

J: We've finally got our car seat and our pram. We've been working with an app called Mum&Me, and it's been amazing. I didn't know the first thing about what to buy for the baby, so the app has been a godsend. It just had everything there, and I know I can trust it.

Is it overwhelming to be first-time parents?

A: I think what makes it even more exciting – and a little bit scary – is just that it's just the two of us joining forces. We don't have our mums or grandmas on a click-your-fingers king of basis.

J: It is overwhelming but Aljaž and I are quite chilled out. We're not ever-planning or over-stressing, and we try to keep the things that we need to an absolute minimum. Except for really cute outfits. That's been hard not to shop for.

A: The next thing we're shopping for is more closet space!

Janette, we know you love Disney. Will there be some hints in you nursery?

J: The only brief I gave the designers was neutrals. I want it to be calm because, God knows, we won't be. [Laughs.] But there will be some touches of Disney.

A: And hopefully some Manchester United, but my gut feeling is telling me no.

J: You did sneak one football jersey into the house! The team from Dave Interiors, who we worked with on decorating our house, were so good, because I was like, "We're absolutely not putting a signed football jersey anywhere." It's now in the downstairs bathroom for guests to see.

A: In the nicest possible way, I've never enjoyed using that bathroom more.

You probably don't want to hear about our Liverpool-themed downstairs loo…

A: Liverpool? Oh sorry, the WiFi connection's gone – you're breaking up! [Laughs.]

Do you have a baby name picked out?

A: Everyone we speak says you need to see the baby first, but we do have a name we love. As soon as we look at the baby bump we call them the night.

J: The designers wanted us to get a beautiful piece of fabric with the baby's name on it for the nursery, but I just couldn't buy it. If i put it on something, it's too real.

Which of your Strictly family would you trust to babysit?

J: They're all wild creatures, those dancers!

A: You know who I would trust with our baby? Craig [Revel Horwood]. He's very good with kids.

J: Nadiya [Bychkova] is a mum and one of my closest friends, so i think she'd be very kind and gentle with the baby. Every single pro on the show has been so excited. I'm literally getting texts every day.

Do you think your child will dance before they walk?

J: I feel like they're dancing in my stomach already. We always say we were very lucky that our parents allowed us to chase the dream of dance, because it's a tough world. Our parents taught us that you've got to let your child do what makes them happy. Whether they want to dance, play football, or be an astronaut, we'll all be there for them 100 per cent.

Would you let them play football for Liverpool?

A: It all depends on the contract, I'll be honest. I'm just joking. Like Janette said, our parents are this perfect example of unquestioning support, and we just want to strive to match that as best as possibly can. Whatever they want to do, we'll be there for them. And if they want to be a billionaire, we'll support that, too!

Twist And Shout is back for a second series. How is working together?

J: There's a lot to talk about, because there's so many changes that have happened over the past two years – like moving up North and having the baby. In a really cool way, the podcast is like therapy. We just sit, talk, and listen. We've had our interior designers giving tips, and we've also had [Dragons' Den star] Sara Davies on, too. She was Aljaž's last partner on Strictly and honestly on of the most inspirational women I have ever met.

The podcast is about the two of you, a married couple who "couldn't be more different" – what's your biggest difference?

A: I think we have massive cultural differences. I'm very central European, and Janette is Latin.

J: Cabana!

A: Cabana, sí! Even our national music couldn't be more different. But I think those differences are why our relationship has been as strong as it is, and bridging those gaps is exciting.

J: When it comes to the important core things like family and love, we're very similar. We have a lot of the same mentalities about how we want to raise our child and what kind of parents we're going to be.

Are you competitive with each other?

A: Never between one another. We actually worked really well together on Strictly, giving each other little tips after we got home from rehearsals. But I’m from a competitive dancing world, so you do have to be competitive. And even if you’re not competitive with yourself, you need to find someone around you that triggers that spirit.

**J:**When you’re around people like Aljaž, who are giving 1,000 per cent, you can’t not go for it. But we’ve never been competitive between us. There’s already so much pressure on Strictly to make sure your celebrity is OK and handle the other aspects of the show, so it was nice to just be there for each other.

Janette, are you excited for Fleur East to be your new It Takes Two co-host?

J: I won’t lie, Rylan [Clark] and I got along so well. He was like my TV husband. But saying that, I got to know Fleur last year when she was competing in the series and then we did the live tour together. I really enjoy her company. I feel like she’ll meet me at my level of weirdness on the show. And we’ll have two women taking the lead.

Aljaž, reckon you could end up back on Strictly on day?

A: Although I love the show, I feel like I’ve done my last dance as a professional – but Strictly has hosts, Strictly has judges, Strictly has so many different aspects. I’m always going be a fan, and whenever there’s an opportunity to be a part of it, I would love to.

Janette Manrara and Aljaž Skorjanec dancing together in 2019 (Photo by Lia Toby/Getty Images)

Would you make a good judge?

A: Oh, a tremendous judge! They don’t realise what they’re missing out on. I think I’ve paid my dues, as well – I’ve won the show, been on it for a few years, and I know what it’s all about.

Do you have a favourite celeb partner?

J: We always say it’s like picking your favourite finger – you need all of them! Every single one brought something special. I keep in touch with a lot of them, and we genuinely created friendships for life. But they are competitive with each other – always saying “I’m the favourite.”

Who takes the longest to get ready?

A: Janette.

J: I'm getting better, though! I'm working on speed for when the baby comes.

Who's most likely to turn up late?

J: Me, but never for work!

A: Actually, it’s called Cuban time. It’s a time zone.

J: When Aljaž met my family, he realised it’s a real thing.

Who deals with spiders in your house?

A: Janette. Even with snakes, I would just sort of stand still and not breathe for five minutes. But spiders? They’re scary.

So, we won't see you on I'm A Celeb then?

A: I think that if I ever do that show, I don’t want to get rid of the spider fear completely. I’d just want to get to the point where I wouldn’t run out of camp.

J: We’d have to work on that.

Who’s the funniest?

A: Janette.

J: No!

A: We’re supposed to say each other, remember...

J: But I do think you are! And you’ve got funnier through the years.

A: I’m like wine.

Who will be better with early morning baby feeds?

J: We both get up early and in good moods, so I think that’s a 50/50.

A: Teamwork! [They high five.]

Who’s more likely to watch themselves back on TV?

J: Me, but only because I learn from watching myself back. Aljaž hates watching himself back.

So, you won’t be sitting down with your child and showing them your Strictly dances?

A: No way.

J: I’m sure our parents will do that.

Series 2 of Twist And Shout With Aljaž And Janette is out now on Acast

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